The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money….7Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil (Emphasis added). - 1 Timothy 3:1-3, 7
I have seen it too many times now. Sometimes far off by way of a news article. Sometimes close to home by way of a friend or colleague. A pastor or vicar losing his way, finally getting caught, and a ministry, family, and church wrecked, angry, and hurt. Often times it has been pornography. Sometimes it is gambling. And a few times it has been somebody getting caught using a website or app specifically designed for people to “meet”, if you know what I mean. It is not just limited to pastors; church workers, elders, council members, etc. are all getting caught giving into grievous sin.
There is always only ever one solution to sin, temptation, and the devil: our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Only through His death on the cross is our sin overcome. In our baptisms our sinful self (the Old Adam) was crucified and buried with Christ. Now, we are a New Creation. We have been given the Holy Spirit. However, on this side of eternity we still sin, we still fall short. And so, we still need Christ every day. And every day we must, as Luther tells us, drown the Old Adam in remembrance of our baptism. But, we do not have to do this alone. Christ, through the Holy Spirit, calls us into the community of believers a.k.a. the church. Part of being a Christian is helping to hold each other accountable to the high calling to which we are called.
Practical Steps and Options to Help
So how do we help each other? Here are some steps and options to help.
Make It Harder to Do
Move all personal computers into a public space. It is a lot harder to do something you are not supposed to do if you are sitting in the middle of your living room and anybody can come in at any moment. With the advent of smart TV’s and other casting or streaming services I have also heard from experts to move TV’s out of the bedroom. This is also great for parents with children still at home. If you want to know what your children are watching eliminate ways for them to watch something without your knowledge.
Find an Accountability Partner
Are you really struggling with one of these sins? Find an accountability partner. This is a person that will hold you responsible. It needs to be somebody who can meet or talk with you on a regular basis (preferably weekly). Someone you can trust. They are to hold you accountable, not spread gossip. And, somebody you can call day or night as a “lifeline”. I also suggest it be somebody who is of the same gender. Sharing intimate details with someone naturally draws people together. No reason to fall into one sin while trying to avoid another.
Use Accountability Software
Accountability software is great. And, there are a lot of different options out there. You might want to look into employing a few different options. You want something that can work across a variety of platforms (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android), and most nowadays do. Now, let’s take a look at some of the options out there (the following list is in no way extensive):
Net Nanny - Net Nanny is a subscription service. You pay for the amount of licenses you need (up to 15). Each device is considered one license. It works across Windows (Vista and later), Mac, Android, and iOS. Net Nanny is really for the home and monitoring children. It has a central administrative console, so from one place you can monitor all devices. One of the more alluring options is their product Net Nanny Social. It claims to “monitor activities related to cyberbullying, sexual predators, privacy concerns, and reputation-damaging pictures or videos…and monitors the social networks kids use, regardless of the child’s device or Internet access point (3G/4G, Wi-Fi, home network, or hotspot).” One of those networks is Tumblr. Tumblr is a blogging site that has quite a few NSFW (Not Safe For Work) blogs.
Accountable2You - Accountable2You is another subscription service. This can be an option for both church workers or family. It does require an accountability partner if you are going to use it “professionally” instead of just in your home. What is great about this program is that not only are there pricing plans for families but they also have a plan for churches ($9.99/month +$2.99 per member). Under a church plan each member can safe guard up to six devices. You can even manage an objectionable word list. It is a multi-platform program (Windows, iOS, Mac, Android) and can monitor Windows Server (they have a business plan option), along with Chromebook and Linux. Accountable2You also boasts a GPS tracking option, so you can always know where your children are.
Tx3Watch - When I first learned about internet monitoring and accountability software this was the first program of which I heard. I do not know if it has been around the longest, but it is close to it if not. x3Watch was developed by XXXchurch. XXXchurch has been one of the most vocal groups about the dangers of internet pornography. x3Watch has two subscription options: a premium plan and a basic plan. Both plans require at least one accountability partner. The premium plan also includes Craig Gross’ book, “OPEN” which talks about accountability. x3Watch works on Mac, PC, iOS, and Android all hooked up to one account. This is a personal accountability software program. It does not offer a family or group option.
CovenantEyes - When I was still in the Michigan District the CEO of Covenant Eyes gave a talk during one of our pastors’ conferences. Like the others this is subscription based. However, CovenantEyes offers both a personal and family plan. As such it is extremely comprehensive. It offers filtering by an age based rating system, unlimited accountability partners, cross platform (Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android), and a panic button. If you hit the panic button it cuts off internet access which can only be reinstated by calling the Customer Support team. Also, if you are somebody’s accountability partner and they delete the program it sends you an alert., and it can only be taken off a computer with a code. You can even create a custom block/allow list and apply it only to certain members of the family, or you can even block certain times of the day (not available in iPhone).
OpenDNS - OpenDNS is now owned by CISCO. But, they still have two free home options along with a low cost plan. OpenDNS also offers plans for business (of which I would assume a church would fall under). And, it is used by 1 in 3 schools within the United States. While this program does have an option for monitoring devices no matter where they are it is primarily network based. What that means is that it will block access to any website for any device logged onto your network whether hardwired or Wi-Fi because you are controlling the flow of information at the router instead of at the end-point device. This is what makes it great for churches and homes. And, you can customize which websites to block along with the standard “block adult content.” When you consider that in the home most children are exposed to adult content on a friend’s device here is a great way to severely limit that possibility. It is also a great way to keep volunteers from looking at Facebook when they are supposed to be running the slideshow for worship. If you combine this program with one of the options above, you really make yourself as insulated as possible.
The One Huge Caveat
This only applies to people with iOS devices. One of my very, very, very few gripes with Apple is this problem right here. Apple does a great job in not letting apps with pornography in its app store. However, the only way that Net Nanny, CovenantEyes, x3Watch, and any other monitoring program works on an iOS device (iPhone, iPad, iPod) is by using that program to browse the internet. Apple refuses to work with accountability software developers on Apple’s Safari for iOS app (Apple’s native internet browser) and there is no way to remove a native Apple app from an iOS device. Personally, this is why I appreciate an option that works at the router level because I have all Apple products.
If you have not had a major scandal over something like this, you will. Be proactive instead of reactive. It might be a church worker; it might be a lay person using a church computer to look at something he or she should not. No matter what, I urge you to put the safeguards in place now, instead of closing the barn door later.
I know there are more options out there. What have you found to be effective? Does your church or ministry already use accountability software? What type?